After a year spent traveling alone as a woman, there were so many places I felt strongly about – the highs, the lows, and the occasional lull of boredom. I visited 24 countries and countless cities (well, they’re probably countable but math is hard so I just won’t). But out of all those spots, what did I think were the best places for solo female travel?
Well, a few places stood out as favorites for being really friendly to women traveling alone like me – places that were friendly, very safe, and interesting to visit.
My 5 top solo female destinations
5. Sydney, Australia
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect about Australia as a whole – the mix of American and British culture, all those deadly creatures and very cute slang words – but I did know I was looking forward to being in the land of brunch after three months in the breakfast wasteland that is Southeast Asia. And brunch I did – sometimes twice a day if I was feeling decadent.
I enjoyed Melbourne too (Cairns was too close to being Texas for my liking), but Sydney won my heart. The stunning Bondi Beach and the incredible people-watching on it, the chic cafes with incredible coffee, the fairly functional public transit and walkable sidewalks, the lush parks and inviting museums all won me over.
There are so many possible options for spending your time here – I went to so many yoga classes (thanks to a newcomer pass at Body Mind Life studios, it was really affordable) and even did some coastal hikes like the stunning Bondi-Coogee, but you could also dive into endless wine tastings and the decadent Italian food and ricotta pancake brunches, or primp and preen at the salons and spas all around. I got an eyelash lift here for the first time and it changed my life.
Sydney reminded me of Los Angeles, if it was full of chill friendly Aussies instead of Angelenos. (Everyone is beautiful but with far, far less Botox (nobody loves Botox like wealthy American women)). Active and decadent, friendly and safe, this was a great destination for solo female travelers.
Stay: in the perfectly located (and otherwise decent, Australia’s hostels are kind of shit) Bondi Backpackers. Across the street from the ocean – doesn’t get better than this. They have female dorms where I met ladies from all over the world – easy to make friends.
Eat: a decadent brunch at Trio on Bondi, with a view of the beach. The lattes are perfect, as is the green shakshuka.
Do: an Aboriginal history boat tour with Tribal Warrior. This was my favorite part of my trip – a journey through the history of the indigenous people here, by a native-owned company helping to support their community economically.
Top tip: Feel weird brunching solo? Head to the classic and iconic Bill’s in hipster Darlinghurst and grab a seat at the communal table instead. Eat all the ricotta pancakes for me please, I’m still dreaming of them months later.
4. The Dordogne, France
I could have put Paris here too, but Paris is just perfect for literally everything and everyone already knows that. For something more unusual, head south to the Dordogne region.
If your idea of the perfect solo female road trip involves castles and wine and foie gras, this one’s for you. Old chateaus dot the countryside, tucked behind the winding hills and slow soft rivers.
I rented a car and drove around here, which was the best way to see all the charming little towns and castles. This isn’t something I usually do when traveling alone, as I don’t love driving and am hesitant to do it in a foreign country. But driving in this part of France was not just simple (and cheap!) but enjoyable. Good and uncrowded roads with strict speed limits, generally polite drivers and signs you don’t need a grasp on French to understand, meant I could hop all around without much stress at all. The rental agency even gave me an automatic for free upon hearing my American accent, but do know they mostly have manuals for rent unless you pay extra.
And the food here is incredible – known for truffles and foie gras and duck, it’s a recipe for delicious eating and also maybe some gout. Worth it. There’s ancient history to be found in the Lascaux caves and St. Christophe’s rock, all those castles (seriously, so many castles), and a beautiful tiny town around every corner to explore. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and costs were quite low.
Stay: get a cute farm AirBnb – I stayed on a working farm with the friendliest French hostess for under $20 a night for my own space. I did have to share the yard with a pony and a donkey, but they were cute as hell.
Eat: the best meal I ate in this heavenly food region was at Le Bistro de la Place in the little village of Tremolat – I got the all-duck menu and nearly died of happiness. Don’t miss it but do make a reservation – they will be nicer to you and it’s also almost always full!
Do: Visit at least one ancient site – the Lascaux cave isn’t the original (it was closed due to damage) but visiting the museum and the reconstruction is not to be missed to understand more about our human heritage.
Top tip: English is fairly widely spoken, but some basic French (and the Google Translate app) are helpful. In Paris, it feels increasingly like everyone speaks English, but as you go further out into the country this is less true.
3. Chiang Mai, Thailand
I came for three days and stayed for nearly three weeks – that’s how much I loved Chiang Mai. Nestled in the cooler north of Thailand, it’s also one of the food capitals of one of the top food countries in the world. Small enough to walk around easily aside from the constant traffic, it’s also large enough to have plenty going on. Yoga studios are everywhere and excellent, there are friendly locals as well as plenty of expats and travelers, and I hear the bars are fun too.
There’s a big expat scene if you’re looking for company, and plenty of lovely cafes to work in. So many digital nomads end up here for a reason. It’s social, it’s easy to get around, it’s cheap, and it’s safe – I found Thailand as a whole to be a very comfortable place to travel as a woman.
How helpful are people here? I was at the Chiang Mai bus station getting a ticket up to Chiang Dao (highly recommend also for some peaceful nature time!) and no less than five people immediately came up to me, guided me through the ticket buying process, and found me a seat on the bus and announced my stop when it came. Same on the bus ride home – I was the only tourist on the bus and it couldn’t have been more pleasant or helpful.
And visiting all the beautiful temples is a must when the lively pace of the city has you needing silence and stillness – just make sure to cover your shoulders and knees when you go in.
Stay: Family Home Hostel did really treat me like family – the owner Joe is always looking out for his guests and has great advice. They have both dorms and private rooms, which are such a good deal.
Eat: Mango sticky rice at a night market, and also for breakfast, and then again for lunch. And khao soi, and the poached chicken, and literally everything. This is food heaven. And if you’re craving some western food, don’t miss Good Souls, which has the best vegan food I’ve ever tasted.
Do: Visit every temple – the big ones, little ones, just walk around and pop in. They’re spectacular here. And all the yoga – the studios here are incredible. I loved Wild Rose and Hidden House, and don’t miss a retreat at the incredible Suan Sati
Top tip: Do avoid burning season here – I went in late March and health advisories were in full force (as in, don’t go outside ever). It usually lasts mid-March until the end of April, when the rains start.
2. Vienna, Austria
When I am an old lady, I’ve moving to Vienna. I’ll wear my (vintage) fur coats and red lipstick to breakfast at a glamorous old cafe, where I’ll drink champagne just because it’s Tuesday. Then off to the stately opera house for a brief transport to the sublime, and followed by a cheese sausage and a beer at the cart outside. Old me is very cool.
But young me loved Vienna too – going to the opera for 3 euros (you do have to stand the whole time, so this is not the time for Wagner), cheese in everything, gluhwein and Christmas markets in the light-strung streets.
It’s not just surface beauty though – Graham Greene, one of my favorite writers, set his gritty post-war movie script “The Third Man” here and wrote it in Cafe Mozart, a must-visit for breakfast. And the museums? Sigh. There are so many and they’re full of Klimts and Titians and they’re all in former Hapsburg palaces and I want to live in them.
Vienna is the perfect solo female travel destination for the intellectually curious woman who also loves glamour (and cheese, so much cheese). It’s quite safe with great public transit, it’s clean, and it’s as friendly as you get in Austria (they’re not the most outgoing people). The only reason I’m not moving here now is the city has a decidedly elderly vibe – in a cool, chic way, but also in a way I’m not ready for quite yet. Also it’s cold in the winter and that’s not my vibe. But old lady Kathleen is really looking forward to her retirement.
Stay: Wombats City Hostel has a good location and a super-friendly vibe – I popped down to the bar for my free welcome drink and made 7 new good friends over the course of two hours of trivia. Comfy beds too!
Eat: Cheese spaetzle, cheese sausage, just plain cheese, and of course Wienerschnitzel. This is not a health-conscious diet, but it’s tasty. Also don’t skip a decadent breakfast in the glamorous Cafe Central – worth the ever-present lines but do go early so they’re not too long.
Do: Get that 3 euro opera ticket: get in line 2 hours before the performance and wait until you’re called! (Full and excellent details here.) Then go nab a front spot in the standing area early – key so you can lean against the rail for comfort. Settle in for beauty.
Top tip: the Christmas markets in Vienna are incredible, even for a Grinch like me. Visit in December and stroll around with your gluhwein (hot spiced wine) in a boot, and make sure to return the boot to get your deposit back. Or keep it as a souvenir! You can also drink a hot Aperol Spritz, which is… interesting. Recommended for the novelty.
My number one destination for solo female travelers is a whole country. I can’t pick just one spot for my favorite – because everywhere I’ve traveled in Greece as a solo traveler has been wonderful. The islands, you’ve heard about: the glories of a sunset over the Santorini caldera and the ancient mysteries there, the parties of Mykonos, and the actual heaven on earth that is Crete – perfect food, perfect weather, perfect beaches, perfect friendly locals.
But the mainland has much to offer too – Athens is young and hip and lively and historic all at the same time (and so safe!), Nafplio and the Peloponnesus are full of ancient Mycenaean palaces and sunny orange groves, and you can even ski here up north in the mountains.
If you’re a solo female traveler into hiking, beaches, partying, eating, shopping, history, wine – it’s all here. And it’s all easily accessible – it’s actually one of my top destinations for newbie solo female travelers too.
Related: my top 10 Greece travel tips
English is widely spoken, especially in the younger generations and in touristy areas, the tourist infrastructure is well-built and makes it easy to travel around, you’ll meet travelers from all over the world, and it’s incredibly safe here. Even Athens, which has quite a reputation in American circles for being a haven of crime, is one of the safest cities in Western Europe.
And Greek people are so friendly and hospitable – one of the tenets of Greek culture is philoxenia, the love of strangers. Just have a little patience for the slow pace of life here – ferry to Santorini delayed? Time for an iced espresso on an Athenian rooftop white gazing at the Acropolis. Did I mention how affordable everything is too?
I love it so much I moved to Athens for a few months after my year-long trip ended, and I’m thinking about moving here long-term too. Greece is a special place.
Stay: For the budget-conscious traveler, the Athens Quinta hostel in the city is a great find – cute, friendly, and breakfast provided in the garden. And the Youth Hostel Plakias in the south of Crete is my idea of a very special heaven. Markakis Studios in the center of Santorini is a great budget option on a pricey island. And for luxury? I still dream of the beds and bathrobes and breakfast at the Megaron Hotel in Heraklion, Crete.
Eat: Everything. Gyros (pronounced yee-ros) and souvlaki in Athens at the little street stands, espresso freddo (iced espressos) at every cafe, the thick yogurt with local honey every morning and spanakopita from the corner bakery every night. Greece is food heaven – and wine too. Don’t miss Assyrtiko from Santorini!
Do: Visit every ancient site and museum in Athens – it’s a long list. Take the ferry to Santorini (more scenic than flying) for a few days of sipping wine and staring at the caldera and exploring ancient Atlantis, and then head to Crete for even more ancient history and hiking and beaches and my favorite restaurant in Greece: Peskesi.
Top tip: Planning a trip around the islands? You need to use Ferryhopper.com, the site that makes the often-confusing ferry ticket process here comprehensible and easy. They have good customer service too – I’ve been stuck on Santorini twice (that ferry to Crete I don’t think really exists) and they were lovely. Also go in the off-season to avoid the sweltering August heat in Athens and the staggering crowds. May and September here are perfect and much cheaper.
I’ve found my favorite solo female travel destinations – now go find yours!
Setting off on a solo trip is exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking too – whether it’s your first time traveling alone or your twentieth. But these five places were the 5 best places for solo female travel I found: safe, easy, and friendly. And all had great food, which is my true love.
I hope you love them all as much as I have.